Padre Pio Christmas Meditation

Far into the night, at the coldest time of the year, in a chilly grotto, more suitable for a flock of beasts than for humans, the promised MessiahJesus – the savior of mankind, comes into the world in the fullness of time.

There are none who clamor around him: only an ox and an ass lending their warmth to the newborn infant; with a humble woman, and a poor and tired man, in adoration beside him.

Nothing can be heard except the sobs and whimpers of the infant God. And by means of his crying and weeping he offers to the Divine justice the first ransom for our redemption.

He had been expected for forty centuries; with longing sighs the ancient Fathers had implored his arrival. The sacred scriptures clearly prophesy the time and the place of his birth, and yet the world is silent and no one seems aware of the great event. Only some shepherds, who had been busy watching over their sheep in the meadows, come to visit him. Heavenly visitors had alerted them to the wondrous event, inviting them to approach his cave.

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A Strange Thing Jesus Said to a Paralyzed Man – Another Insight from Pope Benedict’s New Book | Archdiocese of Washington

The Gospel from Monday the second week of Advent is the gospel of the paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof. It is presented to us in Advent because, among the many prophecies about the Messiah, would be that the lame would walk. But the Gospel also helps us to focus on Jesus’ central mission for us, and it is very provocatively expressed in this Gospel.

The Gospel passage contains a rather peculiar and somewhat awkward moment. Jesus looks at a paralyzed man and says to him, As for you, your sins are forgiven (Lk 5:20). What a strange thing to say to a paralyzed man.

The Pharisees and scribes of course are all worked up for other reasons, but their reason is not ours, we know that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Let us stay focused on the strange thing to say to a paralyzed man, your sins are forgiven you.

One of us modern folk might be tempted to tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, “Ah excuse me, Lord, this man is paralyzed, his problem is paralysis, that’s what he needs healing for.”

Of course Jesus is not blind or unintelligent, knows this. But looking at a paralyzed man he does not see the paralysis as his most serious problem. The man has a far more serious problem, his sin.

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The Lamb of God Theme: Sixth Model

Lamb of GodAbridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Six: Isaiah, Draftsman for the Master Engineer – Isaiah Ch. 1-66 – Circa 750-675 B.C.

Biography: He was born to the aristocracy of the tribe of Judah around the middle of the 8th century before Christ and is called the “Pearl of the Prophets.” His name means; “The Lord is salvation.”

Forward: In Isaiah’s writings we read of future events some of which were beyond the full understanding of the recipient of the vision itself. Sometimes they occurred in such a distant future that only God’s knowledge could have imparted them to Isaiah.

Place: Isaiah’s  imagery can be seen as actual word pictures pertaining to Him  who is to become the “Redeemer” promised by God in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15) who will crush the serpent’s head as the Truth crushes half-truth!

Isaiah is used by God to enlighten the chosen people about the Lamb of God theme. After God’s last model, The Scapegoat, had been given to them with such precise rubrics, that it had developed into the great Jewish Feast of the Atonement; Yom Kippur. Centuries have passed but God’s time is not our time, He moves at His own pace. “This then shall be our everlasting ordinance for you: Once a year, atonement shall be made for all sins of the Israelites.” – (Leviticus 16:34)

It is Isaiah who first links the Lamb of God to the Man born of woman who will be God; thus exhibiting a love so great that only the Angels in Heaven could conceive of it. The prophet’s warning from God was lightly considered: “My word shall not return to me void . . . but shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” – (Isaiah 55:11)

Specifications: The first startling fact that emerges from his writings is that God is giving Isaiah a set of specifications for a new version of the Lamb of God. Heretofore, the blood to be shed, was that of an animal as in the acceptable sacrifice of Abel (Cf. Gen. 4:1-5).

Through analogy, Isaiah sees that there will be a man whose blood will be shed; whose lamblike qualities will prove to be the embodiment of the types shown in our previous models, from that of Abel (Gen. 4) to that of the Scapegoat (Lev. 16).

God used Isaiah not only to introduce this new model of the Lamb of God theme but also to add a much greater development of the Messiah’s characteristics. He shows that not only will the fulfillment of the types of this theme be accomplished but also many types as well; such as “bread” seen in the Passover meal, the manna in the desert, to mention but one.

As with most prophecies, the details become clear only in their fulfillment and this part of Isaiah’s work will be dealt with in the fulfillment by our Lord.

For the theme of the Lamb of God I will dwell on Isaiah 53:7 only where he describes the “One who is to come” as a lamb. We will divide it up into three parts: The Judgment of Caiaphas, The Judgment of Pilate and the Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah 53 and 54.

Judgment of Caiaphas: Note the classic quotation from Isaiah as follows: “He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth. He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.” – Is. 53:7

Matthew record’s the trial before Caiaphas in Chapter 26:57 ff.

As one author put it “the trial before Caiaphas was ‘rigged.’”

“Jesus came before the Sanhedrin twice: first at night, then in the morning. The trial before the ecclesiastical court was illegal for two reasons, the time element and procedure. No formal trial could be held at night, much less in the private home of the high priest. The high priest conducted the case instead of merely presiding as unbiased judge. False witnesses were deliberately admitted. There was no agreement in their testimony, which should have entailed dismissal of the case. The accusation of blasphemy was not proven: Christ in very truth was the Son of God.” – Footnote pg. 177, Chronological Harmony of the Gospels

Caiaphas pronounced the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: first, when he asked Jesus “dost thou make no answer . . .” but Jesus kept silence. (Mt. 26:57-68) “Then the high priest, standing up, said to him, ‘Dost though make no answer to the things that these men prefer against thee?’ But Jesus kept silence.”  As Isaiah had prophesied, “He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter . . . and he shall not open his mouth.” Secondly, Caiaphas used the official formula, “I adjure thee by the living God” and put the real question that troubled them: “tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” (Verse 63). Then, because Caiaphas couched his question in accord with divine law, Jesus, always obedient to His Father’s will, answered: “Thou hast said it.”

It is interesting to note that Caiaphas used the phrase “Son of God” above as Christ meant “Messiah” or the anointed one, the savior who was promised in Genesis 3:15. But “Son of God” was the claim that Jesus was making: namely, that He is divine . . . one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And Jesus amplified his answer by saying “Thou hast said it. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (Verse 64). Now this echoed the term son of man as used by the prophet Daniel in Chapter 7:13,14. “I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed.”

Caiaphas, the high priest, understood clearly that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah and God, for he gave the biblical sign: “Then the high priest tore his garments, saying, ‘He has blasphemed, what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ And they answered and said, ‘He is liable to death.’” (Verses 65-67).

Thus the high priest enlarged the Lamb of God significance by alluding to the scapegoat sacrifice; that of universal redemption (Cf. Lev. 16).

Judgment of Pontius Pilate: Even the “lamb” was silent. In the morning they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate. John the Evangelist describes it thus:

“They therefore led Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.  Now it was early in the morning, and they themselves did not enter the praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” __ John 18:28

From the Chronological Harmony of the Gospels: “The Jews who scrupled about contradicting legal defilement did not hesitate to incur the guilt of deicide on the very eve of the Passover. On days of great festivity the Roman procurator, the tribune and soldiers were stationed in the Tower of Antonia, at the northwest angle of the temple, to supervise the ceremonies and to be on hand in case of disturbance. It was in the court of this fortress that the praetorium of Pilate was established on that occasion, and there consequently that Christ was tried and condemned to death. As a Gentile fortress it could not be entered by Jews without their contracting defilement.”

Pilate, the Roman, made an allusion to the relationship of this Man to the Paschal Lamb when he reminded the Jews that it was their great feast when they ate the Passover Lamb.

Pilate went “outside to the Jews again, and said to them, ‘I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover.’” __ John 18:38-40

Twice Pilate asked Jesus about His silence. Once, after He was asked about being King of the Jews, Matthew writes:

. . . He made no answer “so that the procurator wondered exceedingly.” __ Mt. 27:12-14

And what was the accusation? They told Pilate:

“We have a Law, and according to that Law he must die, because he has made himself Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he feared the more . . . And he again went back into the praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where art thou from?” But Jesus gave him no answer __ John 19:7-10

John 19:10 relates the surprise of Pilate at the silence of his defense when Jesus stood before him at the praetorium: “Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Dost thou not speak to me? Dost thou not know that I have power to crucify thee, and that I have power to release thee?’ Jesus answered, ‘Thou wouldst have no power at all over me were it not given thee from above. Therefore, he who betrayed me to thee has the greater sin.’” __ John 19:10-11

A second time after being accused of claiming to be the son of God, Jesus “gave him no answer” according to John. Then Pilate handed him over to the Jews to be crucified. Thus Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: Note that the prophet writes as though it has already happened!

“He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth. He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and shall not open his mouth.” __ Is. 53:7

The Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 53 & 54): Isaiah is the first of God’s prophets to link man, the lamb and God in describing the Anointed One, the Messiah of Gen. 3:15.

Isaiah Chapter 53:1-8 states the following: “ Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth. He was taken away from distress, and from judgment: who shall declare his generation? because he is cut out of the land of the living: for the wickedness of my people have I struck him.”

And in Isaiah Chapter 54, Verse 5 we get this: “For he that made thee shall rule over thee, the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, shall be called the god of all the earth.”

Other Testimony: On the cross Jesus’ kingship is acknowledged by the good thief, Dismas, who asked for and received pardon of his sins when Jesus replied, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Also, the centurion, having observed the extraordinary phenomena of nature, exclaimed as Jesus gave up his spirit: “Truly he was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54)

Thus we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in a threefold way:

  1. Jesus is the Lamb, silently led to sacrifice
  2. Jesus is a Lamb who is the Redeemer of the human race, a scapegoat par excellence
  3. Jesus is a Lamb who is thus addressed by God at the baptism in the Jordan: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)   And of whom John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

Comment: Caiaphas recognized Jesus’ claim though he called it blasphemy. Pilate called him King of the Jews and nailed a sign above Jesus’ head. It read Iesus Nazerenus Rex Iudaeorum or Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, I N R I. It was written in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

Conclusion: We owe a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people for preserving Isaiah’s words in scripture for us and the rest of the world.

We should all read Isaiah 45:17-23: “Israel is saved in the Lord with an eternal salvation: you shall not be confounded, and you shall not be ashamed forever and ever. For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it, the very maker thereof: he did not create it in vain: he formed it to be inhabited. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I have not said to the seed of Jacob: Seek me in vain. I am the Lord that speak justice, that declare right things. Assemble yourselves, and come, and draw near together, ye that are saved of the Gentiles: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven work, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and come, and consult together: who hath declared this from the beginning, who hath foretold this from that time? Have not I the Lord, and there is no God else besides me? A just God and a saviour, there is none besides me. Be converted to me, and you shall be saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is no other.”